Dear Mr Fraser
We are writing in response to Ms Earner’s letter of 13 June 2023 in which you defend your appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager (IM) to the Islamic Centre of England.
The upshot of your communication is that the Charity Commission is acting within its powers to appoint an IM with the implication that this does not diminish the trustees’ ability to continue to provide religious services to the Centre’s users.
While you are correct in stating that you are acting within your powers, this is not the same as saying you are acting in the best interests of the charity or the people that it serves. There are alternative courses of action that could be undertaken to address this situation but the one that you have chosen is heavy handed and panders to an Islamophobic government agenda.
We note that the decision to appoint a non-Muslim IM was made without consulting the trustees and without reference to Islamic rules and principles which require Muslim religious institutions to be headed by someone who professes the Islamic faith, is from the particular community it serves and adheres to the principles that they uphold. In the same way that a Muslim or Buddhist would not be appointed to run a church, it is outrageous to expect that Muslims can accept that a mosque and its attendant religious services are administered by someone from outside the faith.
It comes as no reassurance when you say that the ICE’s trustees will continue to exercise their power to provide religious services. As you are well aware, all the trustees’ decisions are subject to the approval of the IM. The IM is effectively a gatekeeper for everything they want to do. This is problematic in that it imposes a level of state interference in the private affairs of a religious organisation, with the IM holding a veto over what kind of services can be provided, what kind of people can be invited to speak at the Centre and indeed what they are allowed to say.
Our mosques and centres are not just there for personal spiritual practices. They are also community spaces where congregants engage with the social, political and economic issues that life throws up. They provide safe platforms from which people can highlight and confront the injustices around them. In short you cannot separate a mosque’s spiritual and social duties. We have seen from the Charity Commission’s past actions, that it does not and will not tolerate any form of social or political views expressed within Muslim charities via their events and websites. All space for political and social engagement by Muslim charities is being closed off by the Commission. In appointing an IM that will effectively screen what kind of discussions can take place you are effectively removing this right for ICE. It is an attack on our freedom of expression with the aim of engineering an Islam that is alien to our community but palatable to the state.
Your decision has given rise to a strong sense of injustice among the users and supporters of the ICE to the point that there are now weekly protests outside the premises. In view of this we once again urge you to review the appointment of Emma Moody and consult with the trustees and with the community to arrive at a decision which is in the best interests of the ICE and those who use its services.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Islamic Human Rights Commission